“The roads of my colony have been damaged to such an extent due to rains that our friends avoid visiting us,” said Ajay Kumar, an engineering student, who lives in Meenakshi Planet Colony on Hoshangabad Road. “Many residents here have been injured in accidents because of the poor condition of roads. Last month my room-mate Satish ran onto a water-filled pothole and his bike got stuck. Luckily, he escaped with minor bruises”.
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It’s a story many of Bhopal’s residents narrate. Continuous rains in the state have destroyed crops and washed away roads and culverts in the city and on the highways. For instance, the Bhopal-Indore four-lane highway suffered extensive damage. At many places, there are deep pits that are not visible to the drivers. Also, the roads built in rural areas in the district under Prime Minister and Chief Minister rural road schemes have been rendered unusable, exposing their substandard and poor construction. But despite their visibly poor conditions, no repair work has been started on these roads as sporadic rains continue in the city and other places.
The condition of roads in the capital are particularly bad. Innumerable potholes dot most roads which have virtually become a death trap for commuters, especially two wheeler users. It is difficult to even walk on these roads.
The civic authorities, however, are completely apathetic to this danger to the lives of citizens. To take just one area of the city, the roads in the BHEL (Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited) Township are so rundown that driving on them is more of a circus act. The potholes pose a major risk to commuters and are so numerous that trying to avoid one often lands riders on another. Not one road in this large township is free of potholes.
Accident data received from city traffic police showed that 327 people died in road accidents in Bhopal in 2018 compared to 252 in 2017 and 248 in 2016. The city police is still compiling road deaths for this year in Bhopal.
No budget for maintenance
A large number of people, besides the officers and employees of BHEL factory, use the roads from Chetak Bridge roundabout to Avadhpuri, from the front of the Career College to Govindpura ITI, from Gurdwara crossroad to Indrapuri Bima Hospital, and from Mahatma Gandhi intersection to Pipalani petrol pump intersection, all of which are in horrible state. The main reason for the deterioration of these roads is lack of maintenance and the administration’s failure to curb plying of heavy vehicles on these routes.
According to BHEL officials, there is no budget for road maintenance. Anant Toppo, administrator, BHEL Township, said that the repair of roads would begin only after the rains cease fully. He said most of the roads in BHEL have been built by the Capital Project Authority (CPA) or Public Works Department (PWD) and so these agencies should undertake the repair. Out of 163 km of BHEL roads, CPA has built 90 km while PWD and BHEL administration have built about 43 and 30 km.
In particular, service roads that join residential colonies with the main roads, are badly hit. Parvinder Kaur, who runs a beauty parlour near Aura Mall Tri-section, an important commercial and residential area of the city which is visited by a large number of people daily, said the potholes on the roads were only “becoming bigger and deeper”.
Adding to the danger posed by the potholes is poor street lighting in areas like the posh Koh-e-Fiza colony in Old Bhopal. “Roads in the colony are a nightmare for commuters,” said Samyak Jain, who runs a garment shop in the area. “Many roads in Koh-e-Fiza remained submerged for days during the rainy season and so are in shambles today. If the driver is not careful, there is a risk of skidding and tripping into one of the many potholes.”
The story is the same everywhere. Like the unfinished road joining Danish Kunj with Salaiya where a number of residential colonies have sprung up. “I have a grocery shop here and the road has been in the same condition for a long time, making commuting a scary experience,” said Ashish Chaudhury, a bank employee.
The heavy rains have washed away the surface of nearly 300 km of roads in the city. According to officials of the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC), work orders have been issued for the restoration and maintenance of the roads. The BMC has set a deadline of November 15th for the repair of the damaged roads.
BMC Commissioner B Vijay Dutta recently convened a meeting of additional commissioners and city engineers to fix the roads within the prescribed time limit. The additional commissioners are preparing a roadmap for patchwork of more than 3879 km of municipal roads.
About Rs 21 crore is expected to be spent on the maintenance of the roads and work on restoring the roads is ongoing in some VIP areas. But it is anybody’s guess when restoration work will begin in the rest of the sprawling city’s roads. The municipal corporation was forced to retract its initial order that only construction of plastic mix roads will be allowed, after contractors protested. Nevertheless, such plastic mix roads will be tried out from next year.
“At the moment our focus is on expediting the repair of roads,” said BMC Additional Commissioner Kamal Solanki. “After the completion of this work, a workshop will be organized in which the contractors will be trained in the technology of plastic mix roads”. He had little to say about the danger to lives posed by the present road conditions in the city.